Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Beerwolf


Nope, that's not it.
The first thing Beerwolf brings to mind is the guy in the college fraternity who seems to have a bottomless stomach when it comes to drinking beer. Yes, that's not what this article is about.

A Beerwolf (Bärwolf, Werwolf, or Werewolf, and meaning bearwolf) is a German folk-tale monster. Oh yes, think about Larry Talbot and Lon Chaney, Jr.. Think about a hairy mess in the moonlight and it's still not what I'm talking about.

No, I'm talking about Beerwolf as a concept introduced by Martin Luther (in a 1539 debate) where Luther uses the pejorative term to describe the Pope and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. In the context of resistance theory, a "Beerwolf," "in contrast to a mere tyrant, not only broke the law, but overturned the entire moral order upon which it is based. All the subjects of such a ruler... had the right to resist and even to kill him and all his supporters".

The significance of the insulting language lies in the fact that, for most of his life, Luther held that no subject could actively resist a secular ruler, an issue of obvious significance in a time when many rulers in the German lands and their respective subjects held competing religious beliefs. The concept of Beerwolf marked Luther's final and most extreme position on resistance theory, as it relied on natural law (specifically, what would later come to be called Hobbes' right to self-preservation) instead of earlier and more limited rights to resistance that Luther had accepted as flowing from German constitutional law.

The concept of just rebellion that the term Beerwolf introduced was subsequently developed by fellow Protestants who faced a similar situation in France, the Huguenot Monarchomachs.

By extension, Beerwolf may be used to describe any tyrant.

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